Grinding to Valhalla

Interviewing the gamer with a thousand faces

Reading the text: David Marusek

Posted by Randolph Carter on June 1, 2009

Mind over ship coverAuthor website:


Could you take a minute and explain what Mind Over Ship is about?

It’s the second book in a series about what the world might be like in a hundred years. And what it might be like to live in it as a member of the lower, middle, and upper classes. What it’s like to be a service clone and have to deal with bosses who are machines. The first book in the series is called Counting Heads. What I am trying to do in this series is build a complete, functioning world. Inside this world is a cohort of characters that give us a nice cross-section of society. One group is trying to build and launch great colonization ships to seed the galaxy with humans. An opposing group wants to park the great ships in Near Earth Orbit and market them to overpopulated Earth dwellers as space condos.

What was the process like in getting your first book published?

It was horrible. It was demoralizing. Counting Heads took me about six years to finish. (First novels are notorious for taking a long time.) During that time, I found an excellent agent through my short fiction. It took him over a year to sell Counting Heads to a publisher. In those days there were about eight SF houses you could sell to, and we struck out at seven of them. By the time we talked with Tor, I was willing to cut off my ear to sell them the book. This is a long, long story that turned out well. If you want to read a blow-by-blow account, go to the archives of my blog and read the earliest few entries.

Where do you happen to find inspiration for your work?

Everywhere and anywhere.

Are you or have you ever been a gamer? What has your gaming experience been like (board games, pen & paper RPGs, console & computer games, etc.)?

I grew up before games went digital, and as a youth I played all sorts of games (board games, cards, chess, word games, number games, pinball, social games (like “Lord of the Flies,” and doctor). My Dad was a big game player, and he and my seven brothers and sisters and I spent many raucous evenings playing poker and canasta.

By the time RPG and computer games came along, I was already an adult with a family and daughter to support and didn’t have much free time at all. Then an arcade opened in town and I got hooked on a two-player shooter game. All my time and quarters went into it, and eventually I had to bite the bullet and stop playing cold turkey. Good thing the home consoles weren’t much good yet, or I might not have escaped so easily.

I know people who play RPGs, but I’ve never been tempted to join them because it seems too much like writing to me, which I do enough of on my own. That is, playing RPGs seems to exercise the same skill sets I use when I write fiction. My novels are the records of extended RPGs running in my head in which I play all the roles. I may have ten people in there at once taking their cues and trying to imagine their ways to victory and salvation.

Have you ever ventured into online worlds? If so, please explain what that experience has been like.

I live in a rural cabin without broadband. I plan to explore vurt worlds as soon as I can.

Would you say that your gaming experience has had any effect on you as a writer? Please explain.

See answer above.

Grind is a term used frequently in gaming vernacular referring to something that is rather repetitive or unpleasant that one engages in order to progress in the game. Would you say there is grinding in the writing process? Please explain.

There are several grinds in the writing process. The first one is shutting out the world every day in order to work. A writer has to spend 4 to 6 hours daily completely alone in his or her head. No phone, no email, no browsing or reading blogs. For me the hardest part of writing is not staring at a blank page but being alone. It seems to me that this self-enforced solitude is the job requirement that keeps most aspiring writers from success. It’s a freaking grind.

Another grind is proof corrections. Here you’ve spent a year or so writing something, during which time you’ve read and re-read the piece a dozen times until you are tired of it. You send it off to your publisher, and a few months later it returns as a corrected manuscript, and you have to read it all over again very closely, every word and punctuation mark. Then, a few months later it comes again as galleys, that is, as typeset pages. And you have to read it all over again. This is the last time you’ll see it until it’s printed. Of course when it does hit the bookstores, you never want to read it again.Counting heads cover

I have a novella, “We Were Out of Our Minds with Joy,” that over the years has been republished so often that I was forced to read it over 50 times. It got so that I could not physically force myself to read it again and finally had to ask a friend to proof it for me.

By contrast, what would you say is one of the most rewarding things about being a writer?

When a reader cares so much about a story that they’ll send me an email.

Would you have any words of advice for the would-be-writers out there?

Never give up.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with this gamer/reader audience?

Stay sharp.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: